On Wednesday, February 13, an Oak Park High School science teacher was put on paid administrative leave after reports surfaced that he had used a private Twitter account to communicate with students (Clark 1). North Kansas City School District officials have stated that all electronic communication between students and teachers must be open and available to both parents and administrators (Clark 1). Dr. Todd White, North Kansas City Schools Superintendent, stated that social media conversations are allowed as long as they are held on a school account to which the district has access. The communications must also be educational (Hawley 1).
White explained that the main purpose for these guidelines to be in place is to protect both students and teachers (Hawley 1). Obviously, the rule protects students from any school employee trying to communicate with them in inappropriate ways, but the guidelines also protect school employees from ever being accused of communicating inappropriate messages to minors. When I taught in public schools, I would happily email my students back and forth regarding assignments, grades, or other classroom topics, but I would only use my school email address. That way, if any student or parent wanted to accuse me of sending inappropriate messages, not only was I at the ready to give all of my communications over to district officials, but the district already had access to those communications, so I knew I was safe from any false claims.
Details are still sketchy regarding who received the tweets from this particular science teacher. 41 Action News reports that, “several students said the student who received the tweets is a female” (Hawley 1). KCTV5 reports that, “Students and former students had access to view the tweets” (Smith, et.al. 1). KCTV5’s report gives further details regarding the tweets that the teacher sent out over the past several months, “that some might consider demeaning to students, including females and minorities” (Smith, et.al. 1). Some examples from Smith, et.al. include:
“Don’t get cocky. You only win because you have different parts and smell good #GirlsSheesh.”
“If you don’t say nice things about me, I will hunt you down and stab you #rawr.”
“Wondering if I could get fired for submitting thoroughly inappropriate tweets to the yearbook crew. #ShuttingUpCauseILoveMyJob.”
“A 17-year-old student just asked me how to spell ‘college’. Guess where she will never go.”
“That awkward moment when you realize the girls who are fighting over you were born when you were 25. #Grandpa.”
“Sometimes a locked Twitter account is your best friend”
Well, in this particular case, a locked Twitter account is the main cause for concern for Dr. White and other school officials. The content of the tweets is not as much of a concern as is the privacy of the forum. The ‘locked’ and private Twitter account violates district policy. The general thought is that no conversation should occur via social media that could not occur face to face (Smith et.al. 1).
Ultimately, the district’s highest priority is protecting students. This includes obvious physical protection, but it also includes social and emotional protection as well. The North Kansas City School District has a plan in place that allows teachers to use Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets in compliance with district policies: It should be stated in a teacher’s syllabus up front so parents know (Smith et.al 1).
Social media outlets are helpful tools teachers can use to communicate to students regarding assignments, due dates, grades, upcoming projects, etc. Teachers are not forbidden to use these resources; however, they do need to use common sense at the same time.
Clark, Sarah. “Oak Park Teacher on Administrative Leave after Privately Tweeting Students.” www.FOX4KC.com February 13, 2013.
Hawley, Amy. “North Kansas City High School Teacher on Leave after Tweets with Student.” www.KSHB.com February 14, 2013.
Smith, DeAnn, Webster, Betsy and Palumbo, Amanda. “District Places Teacher on Leave after Private Tweets to Students.” www.KCTV5.com February 14, 2013.